Georgia

About 200 attend vigil for slain officers in Americus

'They loved each other, and they died together,' says mother of slain Americus officer

Sharron S. Johnson, mother of officer Jody Smith, spoke at the vigil honoring her son and police officer Nicholas Ryan Smarr. Both officers were killed in the line of duty after answering a domestic dispute call in Americus, Georgia on Dec. 7, 2016.
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Sharron S. Johnson, mother of officer Jody Smith, spoke at the vigil honoring her son and police officer Nicholas Ryan Smarr. Both officers were killed in the line of duty after answering a domestic dispute call in Americus, Georgia on Dec. 7, 2016.

There was no holding back tears Friday night at Georgia Southwestern State University.

“I have cried and cried and I know I’m going to cry and cry for a long time,” Sharron Johnson said to about 200 people who’d gathered for a candle-lit vigil for her son, Jody Smith, and his best friend, Nick Smarr. “But my baby, he’s in heaven. He’s whole and so is Nick. They were both super guys and they loved each other and they died together. They wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Smith, a campus police officer, and Smarr, an Americus policeman, had been friends since fourth grade. They were both shot Wednesday after Smith went to back up Smarr at a domestic dispute call at an apartment complex just south of campus.

Smarr died shortly after he was shot. Smith was flown by helicopter to a hospital in Macon, where he died late Thursday afternoon.

Their killer, 32-year-old Minguell Lembrick, turned the gun on himself during a manhunt when authorities were closing in on him at a house in town.

“This world is getting wicked, but we’ve just all got to all band together and love one another and just lift each other up,” Johnson said through tears.

The vigil was organized by Johnny Moore, president of the Sigma Chi fraternity, to “try to show support for the families, to the local law enforcement and all the first responders here in town.”

The fraternity, along with Kappa Sigma, gave the families each a $1,000 check.

Americus Police Chief Mark Scott said Nick and Jody’s friendship “could never be taken from them and it will never die.”

“They were bound to one another from youth all the way to the end,” the chief said. “They know what community is about too, and they know what a fraternity is. They were part of another brotherhood, the brotherhood that wears a badge. The brotherhood that goes out and tries to make a difference in this world.”

A mile east of campus, a blue ribbon was affixed to the front door of Nanny’s Cleaners. It was one of the last places Smarr visited.

“He’d dropped the clothes off to be cleaned and then he left,” said Chris Weir, who co-owns the cleaners with his wife, Sue. “It was about 9:30 a.m. when he was here. He left right after the call.”

A policeman came to pick up Smarr’s uniform Friday, and American flags were pressed for both of their caskets, Weir said.

“They came in here a couple times a week,” Weir said. “Both of them were super nice guys.”

Weir said the slain officers were neighbors of his on Howard Johnson Road, about four miles west of town. The two shared an apartment with a Georgia State Patrolman.

Smith was to be married in May and Smarr had plans to go to Disney World with his girlfriend this weekend, Weir said.

Smarr’s funeral is planned for 2 p.m. Sunday at the Georgia Southwestern State University Storm Dome. His burial will follow at Oak Grove Cemetery in Americus. Funeral arrangements for Smith have not been announced.

Laura Corley: 478-744-4334, @Lauraecor

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